Three months before his death, Joseph Smith established the Council of Fifty, a confidential group that he believed would protect the Latter-day Saints in their political rights and one day serve as the government of the kingdom of God. The Council of Fifty operated under the leadership of Joseph Smith and then Brigham Young, playing a key role in Joseph Smith's presidential campaign and in preparing for the Mormon exodus to the West. The council's minutes had never been available until they were published by the Joseph Smith Papers in September 2016, meaning that the council has been the subject of intense speculation for 160 years.
In this book of short essays, fifteen leading Mormon scholars explore how the newly available minutes alter and enhance our understanding of Mormon history. The scholars narrate an analyze the contributions of the records of the council to key questions, such as Joseph Smith's views of earthly and heavenly governments; the presidential campaign; Mormon relationships with American Indians; explorations of possible settlements sites, such as Texas and California; the "lost teachings" of Latter-day Saint leaders of that era; and the leadership style of Brigham Young.
The fifteen essays in this collection are as follows: Richard Lyman Bushman, “The Separatist Impulse in the Nauvoo Council of Fifty”; Richard E. Turley Jr., “Injustices Leading to the Creation of the Council of Fifty”; Spencer W. McBride, “The Council of Fifty and Joseph Smith’s Presidential Ambitions”; Patrick Q. Mason, “God and the People Reconsidered: Further Reflections on Theodemocracy in Early Mormonism”; Benjamin E. Park, “The Council of Fifty and the Perils of Democratic Governance”; Nathan B. Oman, “‘We the People of the Kingdom of God’: Constitution Writing in the Council of Fifty”; Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, “Lost Teachings of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Other Church Leaders”; R. Eric Smith, “Insights into Mormon Record-Keeping Practices from the Council of Fifty Minutes”; Matthew J. Grow and Marilyn Bradford, “‘To Carry Out Joseph’s Measures Is Sweeter to Me Than Honey’: Brigham Young and the Council of Fifty”; Jeffrey D. Mahas, “American Indians and the Nauvoo-Era Council of Fifty”; Matthew C. Godfrey, “A Monument to the Saints’ Industry: The Nauvoo House and the Council of Fifty, 1845–46”; Christopher James Blythe, “‘With Full Authority to Build Up the Kingdom of God on Earth’: Lyman Wight on the Council of Fifty”; Richard E. Bennett, “‘We Are a Kingdom to Ourselves’: The Council of Fifty Minutes and the Mormon Exodus West”; Jedediah S. Rogers, “The Council of Fifty in Western History”; and W. Paul Reeve, “The Council of Fifty and the Search for Religious Liberty.”